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Hindsight 2020: Stop, breathe, take stock

Like many of you, I stepped into the new year – and the new decade – with a look back at what the team accomplished over 2019 and a new list of goals. 

Of course, with the volume of work we each take on in this sector, the temptation is to pause only long enough for a quick glance behind us before launching headlong into the new. Maybe it’s my freshly minted New Year’s commitment to a morning meditation practice, but it strikes me that we all need more than that. 

Now is a good time to take a breath and consider more deeply where we’ve come from and where we are going: as leaders, as organizations, and as a sector. 

Here is my take:

The nonprofit sector is currently struggling with, and will continue to struggle with, a mandate for transformation. This charge is based in a number of convergent factors: policy changes national and local, technological advancements, talent shortages and generational transitions, shifts in sector capitalization models, and changes in the nature (and location) of service demands due to factors old and new, from rural flight to AI-prompted workforce disruption to climate change. These disruptive forces demand innovative solutions – not iterative band-aids – in the ways we conceptualize strategy, execute our work, and lead throughout the decade. 

Feeling overwhelmed yet? Again: Let’s take a breath.

A look at where we were a decade ago provides perspective. In 2010, the teeth of the great recession were fully bared, presenting existential challenges to many of our organizations. And yet, the sector has progressed as an industry over the decade that’s followed, and continued making substantial impacts both locally and globally. 

Here in Georgia, GCN has been privileged to witness the past ten years of that impact, improving lives in our small rural communities, our bustling urban centers, and beyond. 

Consider what the nonprofit role has been in developing Atlanta’s Westside and the BeltLine; in the downtown transformations of Augusta and Columbus; in the creation and re-envisioning of iconic cultural entities like the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, the Atlanta History Center, and the Tubman Museum in Macon.

Think about the amazing growth of critical service agencies like CHRIS 180, the Atlanta Community Food Bank, City of Refuge, or the Kroc Center of Augusta; the founding of incredibly impactful organizations like Black Mamas Matter Alliance, One Hundred Miles, and Ser Familia; the number of natural disasters we have responded to in the last decade. (Too. Many. To. Count.)

And let’s not forget the successful advocacy efforts of groups like Trees Atlanta, Voices for Georgia’s Children, the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, and the Georgia Justice Project. And the growth of impact alliances like Step Up Savannah. And – and – and I’m sorry everyone, but it’s time for another one of those breaths. 

I do wish I could mention everyone: Just be assured that I know what you did, and you rock.

Now look back at that list of the challenges we’re facing. Sure, it’s easy to get overwhelmed at first glance – but if we can stop, breathe, and take stock of the sector’s amazing impact, strategic leadership power, collaborative mobilization capability, and innovative spirit, it’s also easy to see what we can do together. 

GCN is proud of the impact we've made working side by side with thousands of you over the past decade: We’ve created smart and responsive strategies, trained the people who now lead organizations, launched programs like GAgives (netting close to $50 million in funding and thousands of new donors to date), and protected our sector from the negative ramifications of new and proposed legislation. 

As we look to the next decade, ready to confront the rapid pace of change, two certainties exist. One: Nonprofits are indispensable to our democracy and our quality of life. Two: GCN will be here for the Georgia sector, for the organizations creating good all around us, and for leaders like you. 

Thank you for being a part of our work and our impact. Now, a big breath out – and onward!

Namaste and happy new year,

Karen Beavor
President & CEO
Georgia Center for Nonprofits

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